Hacking News Google Search Ads Infiltrated Again by Tech Support Scams

Published on August 21st, 2019 📆 | 5735 Views ⚑

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Google Search Ads Infiltrated Again by Tech Support Scams

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If you are planning on doing any shopping over the weekend, you may want to be careful when doing searches in Google.  This is because scammers have infiltrated Google’s ad network to redirect users to tech support scams when they click on popular search terms such as Lowes and PayPal.

A security research recently told BleepingComputer about a new malvertising campaign that is causing searches for the keyword “Lowes” to redirect a user to a tech support scam. As you can see below, this ad looks legitimate as it is the first item displayed on a search page and shows that its target URL is www.lowes.com.


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When searchers click on it, though, they are brought to a site that will determine based on various conditions whether the visitor will be redirected to Lowes.com or the tech support scam shown in the video below.

It is not known what the exact conditions are for showing the tech support scam or the legitimate site, but in BleepingComputer’s tests, there appears to be frequency caps placed on how many times you will be redirected to the scams in a day.

These tech support scams are more problematic for Firefox users, whose browsers will freeze up and be unable to close without killing the process. For Chrome users it is a bit easier to close the browser.

It is not only Lowes..

Testing for these scams is not easy as they only show you the ads a few time until they blacklist you for a period of time.

In BleepingComputer’s tests, we were able to discover tech support scams being pushed for search terms such as “paypal support” and “best buy” as well. Further tests were not returning any other scams, possibly due to the amount of times we were being redirected.

Malicious ads when searching for Paypal Support
Malicious ads when searching for Paypal Support

BleepingComputer has contacted Google and reported the advertisements to them and they have said they are looking into it and will get back to us.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time scammers have taken out malicious and scammy ads in Google ad network.

Earlier this year we reported that Best Buy ads had been pushing tech support scams and that scammers were displaying ads containing scam phone numbers when you searched for the phone numbers for PayPal, Amazon, and eBay.

Update 6/10/19: Google issued the following statement to BleepingComputer over the weekend about these ads:

“We have strict policies that govern the kinds of ads we allow on our platform, and ads that attempt to trick or circumvent our ad review processes are prohibited on our platform. When we find ads that violate our policies, we remove them.”

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